“Fire Science” teaches high school students about their “fun”

(TNS) – Rick Fryer, a fire investigator who has worked at the Spokane Valley Fire Department since 1999, judged Christine Lapke’s seventh-grade science students on Wednesday and looked them in the eye.

Summer is around the corner, which means more children will be home and may be tempted to play with the fire.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I know that this age group (10 to 14) is responsible for a lot of fires,” Fryer told a class at Centennial Middle School.


Fryer let that sink, then asked if anyone had any younger siblings at home.

Half of the 15 students raised their hands. Fryer told them about a 3-year-old boy from Spokane Valley who was badly burned after an instant lighter accident.

Their attention was completely riveted, Fryer continued his presentation. It was the same science, fun and call for social responsibility from his audience – a reminder that firefighters do much more than fight fires.

Fryer’s presentation is part of the Fire Investigation 101, a program of the department nationally recognized for its unique and innovative approach to tackling youth fires. Students learned about the effects of oxygen on flames, the ability of the kitchen counter to burn metal and the risks of adolescent curiosity when it comes to matches.

“He really knows how to engage students,” Lapke told Fryer, who is known in the industry as “Fire Science.” “The other part is that he supports science and reduces it to terms they can understand.”

Spokane firefighter and firefighter Rick Fryer, center, talks to “investigators” Millie Hutchins, left, and Axel Cannon, 13, right, to identify footprints in a class of middle-aged students at Centennial Middle School Wednesday, June 1, 2022 in Spokane Valley, Washington. Fryer has developed and taught a class for high school students that combines fire science, fire safety and fire investigation. (Jesse Tinsley / Speaker Review)

The program also included a presentation by Patrick Erickson, Communications and Regional Emergency Regional Communications Manager at Spokane.

Erickson began with a pop test: How many 911 calls do you think are made in Spokane County each year?

The highest estimate – 100,000 – was not even close.

“It’s actually about 300,000,” Erickson said.

After confirming that almost every student in the room has a cell phone, Erickson talks about his most critical advantage: the ability to call 911 and potentially save lives.

Then put them in place. Erickson asked them to imagine that they had stayed home during the burglary, and then told them that they could also send an SMS to 911 to get help.

Students were also reminded of the importance of communicating their location, including address, intersections and landmarks.

Fryer took over from there the main event: investigating the causes of a recent fire in the home.

It began with another true story from the Spokane Valley: about a boy with a bicycle who had just reported a fire in the house.

The house was a complete loss.

After an investigation, Fryer noticed signs of burns on the boy’s shoes and backpack, and the child admitted to accidentally starting it.

With a little encouragement, the students looked at a large photo of a burned-out living room and finally managed to “solve” the case.

After the first of three shows on Wednesday morning, Fryer said he hoped it would lead to change.

“I’m really tired of fighting,” he said. “It’s their choice. They’re getting bigger; they need to realize that the decisions they make have consequences.”

© 2022 The Spekesman-Review (Spokane, WA), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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